This scribe’s Internet Journeys brought him to a video — a technicolor video — of Hall of Famer Greg Maddux throwing a bullpen session in 2008. Maddux is of course regarded as a master craftsman when it comes to pitching, and I could cite any number of numbers to back up this claim. You know all that well enough. Instead, let’s appreciate for a moment his drag line.
A pitcher’s drag line — or foot drag or toe drag — is the line his back foot creates in the dirt of the mound just before he releases the ball. Not all pitchers do this (some lift their base foot completely off the ground immediately upon striding), but most do. For pitching coaches, the drag lines are “tells” that indicate how balanced a pitcher is, whether he’s getting good leg drive, and whether he’s getting proper hip rotation and separation of his top and lower halves. All that stuff. It’s also a pretty sound indicator of consistent mechanics and a repeatable delivery, which is something every pitcher aspires to have.
With all that in mind, please enjoy a look at Maddux’s drag line from that aforementioned 2008 bullpen session …
As you can see, Maddux left a pretty uniform drag line. We see 10 pitches on the bullpen mound — some from the stretch and some from the full windup. Surely, there were more that weren’t captured in this particularly video. On the left you’ll see Maddux’s drag line two pitches into this session and on the right you’ll see his drag line after the final filmed pitch of this session …
On the right, you see a little widening of the trench, but you don’t see much. As this video made by former University of Memphis pitching coach Fred Corral points out, it’s optimal for a drag line to form an angle off itself at some point, and Maddux’s does that, as you get a straight line and then a tail off to the arm side. The most remarkable thing, though, is the consistency of it and the prevailing consistency — and the repeatable delivery — it implies. Maybe the toe of his spikes nicks the side every so slightly and makes the drag line a bit wider on one pitcher. Maybe on another, he doesn’t pick up his drive foot until an instant later than usual. Whatever the case, you’re measuring those drifts with the metric side of the ruler. Heck, even the pattern of wayward clay on the rubber looks pretty much the same.
We associate the ability to repeat one’s key mechanical points time and again, from the stretch and from the windup, with pitcher athleticism. Well, here’s a 42-year-old Greg Maddux, in what would turn out to be his final big-league season, showing that athleticism. This isn’t shocking, of course, given all that we know about Greg Maddux, but it’s worth a moment of appreciation.
Source: CBS Sports / WATCH: Let’s randomly appreciate something about Greg Maddux